You’d think living in a city under perpetual construction, the offer to spend a night ogling cold building facades would be light on local takers.

But it’s that very urban Hub sprawl – specifically at the intersection of Winter and Tremont street, and stretching through Washington and Summer Street downtown – that will serve as backdrop for local visual and multimedia artists featuring their work for the 2017 Illuminus Festival this Friday and Saturday in DTX.


The three-year-old celebration of large scale visual installments and site-specific art got its start at the SOWA Arts District in 2014, at the old Power Station, and expanded to Lansdowne Street the year after featuring 30 pieces on display for the roughly 30,000 people that passed through.

And this Friday and Saturday, the show returns for its biggest outing to date with lessons learned, new partnerships emboldening the artists and festival organizers with greater resources, funding, and infrastructure. And, facilitating smooth sailing while dealing with the City of Boston.

“It gets lost in front of the permitting board that this is a non-profit, free cultural event,” says Illuminus executive director Jeff Grantz. “The city came through and made it happen for us. They provided resources and public works, and were there to help ease the way.”

Images provided

Grantz says in the past the Illuminus team has had to pull long form permits (“the equivalent of building a skyscraper in the middle of Boston”, he says with a laugh), which to a degree makes sense. If not from a public safety perspective, than from the standpoint of festival production. No small feat, considering to execute Illuminus the group had to assess areas rich in existing infrastructure – buildings to mount on to and common space areas to create easement for gathering – as well as the basic electrical needs behind a massive light show and visual arts show. Without it, Grantz says they’d have to go “mini Burning Man”.

Ultimately though, the event is rooted in the for-artists by-artists philosophy. And one that has been injected new life with the help of the new partnership with luminARTZ and the Boston Improvement District (BID) program.

“We sat down [with luminARTZ] after a 2015 installation they had at the BPL, to look at our aspirations as organizations, and independently aspiring to create a bigger platform to highlight creative capital in the city, and realized that we were perfectly aligned,” says Grantz.

“After we did the projection on BPL we realized we needed more events like it, based on what other cities and countries around the world are doing,” says luminARTZ director Lyn Burke. “These art installations attract people on a global scale, and I wanted that for Boston. It’s important to give these artists platforms to showcase work.” Burke added luminARTZ works with Mass Cultural Council and other arts organizations for locking eligible artists grants, and says the city of Boston was receptive to their vision. “We’re building something not only to support and sustain artists in Boston, but acts as economic engine for all the businesses involved.”

Eventually luminARTZ director Lyn Burke helped facilitate conversations with BID for what Illuminus has helped to do for beautifying the downtown area, constantly reinventing itself and creating a new culture to give artists an opportunity to paint that picture through their lens, if even just for a weekend.

“This is a modern expression of the city and an opportunity where the rules are bent,” says Grantz. “You can see it, feel it, this vibe of a city awoken for one night to its fullest potential, enabled through the lenses of artists literally creating a new reality on an urban canvas for everyone to experience.”



Dan McCarthy is a Boston-based journalist and editor, covering lifestyle for AmericanInno in Boston along with editing our In The Know daily newsletter. His work has appeared in VICE, The Boston Globe, Esquire, The Daily Beast, Thrillist, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, The Boston Institute for Non-Profit Journalism (BINJ), Leafly News, and more. Follow him on Twitter @acutalproof